Saturday, August 25, 2018

The Justice Minister must step down or be dismissed

Ba Tambadou, Attorney General and Minister of Justice 

Paradise TV, an online television station, is reporting that the Justice Ministry is investigating the circumstance that led to the pardoning of one Svein Aage Sandaker, a Norwegian national and a convicted pedophile.  

He was serving a prison sentence at Mile II for sexually assaulting young Gambian children (both boys and girls) including a young male child aged 4.  The convicted pedophile is also wanted in Norway for similar offenses, according to sources.

In a Facebook posting, Paradise TV is quoting a source in the Justice Ministry who prefers to remain anonymous that the “ministry has not been aware of the decision to grant Svein Aage Sandaker a presidential pardon as part of the observance of the Muslim feast of Tabaski.”

If the news as reported is true, it makes no sense whatsoever because on Monday 20th August 2018, the Ministry of Justice, under the hand of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, issued a public notice informing Gambians that President Barrow, in exercising his constitutional powers of prerogative of mercy has decided to grant pardon to seven convicted felons.

Among the seven who benefited was notorious Norwegian pedophile who was first sentenced to 3 years in prison and fined D600,000 in 2012 in default to serve an additional 3 years.  It is reported that he was in default back in 2015 and had to serve an additional 3 years to be due for release this year – when specifically, we cannot determine for lack of information.  

The news that he was to receive presidential pardon immediately kicked up a dust storm, both in social media, on the ground and in the diaspora so loud and furious that the ministry found the need to offer a clarification that government intention was not to release Svein Aage Sandaker but to extradite him to Norway – a clarification that was immediately dispelled for being a highly implausible occurrence because it contradicted the official government announcement that clearly states that the seven prisoners were being granted a presidential pardon and not an extradition.  

It was also unclear if there is an extradition treaty between The Gambia and Norway, and if there is, there appears to have been no discernable signs of bilateral negotiations between the two countries.  Either the Gambia or Norway or both would have made public pronouncements to that effect.

According to reports, including from sources close to the Justice Minister, who is currently in Mecca, was totally unaware that the Norwegian was on the list.  Regardless of who was responsible for inserting Svein Aage Sandaker’s name in the  list, if that’s what happened – which raises even more damning issues – the legal kerfuffle demonstrates, once more, that the Justice Minister lacks the competence and wherewithal to perform his functions in a non-partisan and impartial manner. 

In a nutshell, Ba Tambadou lacks the professional (courtroom) experience to be an effective Attorney General and too conflicted and partisan to be impartial in his role as the chief legal adviser to the President of the Republic.

With these facts before the Gambian people, his mishandling of the SEMLEX affair - which is now being investigated by a Parliamentary Committee and simultaneously being litigated in the courts -  and the eyebrow-raising case that involved the minister’s brother and the wife of the former Director General of the National Intelligence Agency (renamed the State Intelligence Agency) that can only be interpreted as interfering in an ongoing case he was involved that led to his recusal, the Justice Minister must take full responsibility and resign honorably or be dismissed summarily.  

Gambians have been treated recently by this government with one disastrous and confidence shattering scandals after another, accompanied in each case with implausible and clumsy explanations and clarifications that succeeded only in exposing the lack of candor and downright subterfuge.   These prevarications have shaken the confidence Gambians to the core.

Mr. Jeggan Grey-Johnson of the Open Society Foundation based in Johannesburg on a phone interview to solicit his views on recent developments concluded that “the system has broken – as principles of governance and rule of law were flouted in totality,” referring to the case of the convicted pedophile whose presidential pardon is now in limbo.

The fact that the Ministry was unaware of Mr. Svein Aage Sandaker being on the list of felons to be pardoned was equally perplexing to Jeggan Grey-Johnson for a ministry that “is an integral part of the prerogative of mercy process, precisely because this is a case of legality and justice.”